Meet St. Lucia, synth-pop group, and its two front members, Jean-Philip Grobler and Patti Beranek, who recently released their latest album “Utopia” and single “Gimme the Night”. I had the pleasure of getting to know them, from how they started to where they are now. We discussed their hopes to always continue to perform and create music for years to come. The married melodious duo have been in love for about two decades, and last month just celebrated their 10th year as husband and wife, which made me curious about the beginning of their story.
It all started in Liverpool. Grobler and Beranek were preparing to enroll at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Beranek affectionately recalls her first encounter with her now husband at a bank. She hears him talking about opening a bank account, and for her, it was an instant attraction.
“I heard him at the bank, then I saw him, I was like, Oh my God, he’s really cute. And then, that same night, I had a friend who also went there, and he, for some reason, was hanging out with him. And I was like, oh, it’s the guy from the bank. And then we just started hanging out, and then I was like, I’m in love,” said Beranek.
Grobler, who arrived from South Africa, had just moved to England. Before he started his music studies in Liverpool, “I had a few months, just kind of like, you know, being a young gun, and I was ready to move to England and make a mess. And Patti was literally the first girl that I met when I moved to England.” And it was an instant love connection with a bit of fate that would lead to forming the band St. Lucia.
Fast forward a bit to their early twenties, and they moved to New York for work opportunities in music. After two years of realizing this was not for them, they decided to do their own thing. St. Lucia began with Grobler’s vision for the band. Naturally, not too long after, he asked Beranek to join. She was hesitant at first because they were in a relationship, and typically she felt couples working together was never a good idea. The duo already wrote music together, worked well together and had a great dynamic in making music. So, Beranek said yes, and jokingly told the lead singer Grobler, “I don’t know, Jean, this might be very dangerous because we might get signed if I join the band. Just jokingly! And he was like, yeah, whatever. Should we try it? And I was like Yeah! Okay, let’s try it. Because I mean, we’re doing stuff together anyway. I joined the band. And then two months later, we were signed!”
Listening to their albums and how they came to fruition via Grobler’s creative vision is a form of true art and a bit of magic. The couple both come from musical backgrounds, but it is clear it all began with Grobler. He explains his inspiration for creating music, first and foremost, is all instinct. He is inspired musically by iconic bands and artists like Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Radiohead, Bowie, U2, and The Beatles. For the frontman of St. Lucia, he was inspired by how they made their music and who they were as creative, unique artists. Grobler further explains how he is inspired, “I feel, at least from my perspective, what I’m really inspired by is artists that kind of go against the grain in some way….if I were to reference my favorite artists, there are a lot of ‘the greats’ …they were just really going in their own direction, doing their own thing, you know, not necessarily doing what their fans expected of them. I’m inspired by that approach, and kind of just like really following your own instinct and intuition, rather than what might be the smartest, like commercial moves. Even though the music we make has a very strong pop element to it, we’re not doing it in order to please anyone. We’re just doing it because we’re creating our own fantasy.”
The family of four now lives in Germany closer to Beranek’s parents and sister, which offers them some reprieve when they need time to work on music together. It was a much-needed move from New York, and the required lockdowns made it difficult for the family. The move was the right one, as it allowed Grobler to finish and compose with ease, and they could just breathe and live a bit more normal life, like going outdoors in nature. The move also allowed them to make music and work on their album at home with their kids. Grobler says it is easy for him now when he is inspired to compose. He doesn’t have to travel far to create, allowing him to be in the moment. Beranek always wanted to be a present mom, have kids, and felt like she had to choose, “I think something’s gotta give, I think there is no like, perfect, you know what I mean? I want it all, but I can’t have it all. So I think something’s got to give.”
Their children seem just by osmosis and being immersed in a musical environment. Their eldest, Indy, already has a natural knack for music. “We’re amazed because he has such a good ear, and he sings perfectly in pitch. So if I start singing a song, he’ll sing it on the same pitch. If I go higher, he will copy me. And this is how it started since he was small. And then he would notice things in tracks. And he was like, ‘Oh, I really liked the low part where it goes to the ‘do-do,’ and I’m like, no! What are you talking about? You talk like a musician. So he has actually got a really good ear. And then, late recently, he started sitting down on the piano and playing from hearing little children’s songs or something. He taught himself how to do that, which is pretty, pretty amazing. So we’re not pushing anything,” gushes the mom of two.
Grobler adds, “I think, for us, it’s important, you know, to just kind of cultivate a love for it. Because I think if you have a natural love for it, and it’s not this, you have to play piano and like it.”
Though the home studio allows them to create music with ease, they also enjoy life as a family with their two small kids, Indy and Charlie. His wife’s support in handling the homefront allows Grobler the freedom to travel quite a bit. The family has learned to ride the waves and be present in their work and life. It is a balancing act that is not always balanced, and that is precisely the approach they will have as a family and as a band for their upcoming tour. “You just gotta go, you know, and then you’re gonna have six weeks on the road, and it’s gonna be intense…I feel like I’ve sort of realized for myself, and I think we’ve realized because you’ve got to just decentralize, you got to just be like look, these six weeks I’m only going to focus on my family and playing shows because if you try to do too many other things, you’re just going to be so stressed and frustrated. And all of it’s going to suffer. Yeah, so I think it’s just like — essentialism in a way at times, but then there’s times you just can’t where it’s just like, okay, everything’s literally being thrown at us right now. And we gotta do it,” Grobler said emphatically.
“I think touring for a long time has taught us that you can’t really make such a plan because it always happens to be different. So I think I don’t stress about it anymore. And I’m like, okay, we’re gonna go, and then if things happen, we’re going to fix them on the road,” the mother of two adds. She is also excited about just going back to the states, seeing her friends, and connecting in person after the world took a long pandemic pause.
The band has already released a few songs from this new album, “Utopia”, and while living in New York, they had so much done and mixed. At that moment, it felt nearly complete. Beranek felt like when they were living in NYC as Grobler was putting his final magic touches, the album was, “almost ready to go. And then we moved to Germany, and everything changed. So this actually came together really fast, really quickly. And I love that because I always see it. Jean writes so much music, like, all the time. We have too much music. And I felt like what I always think is important is that we grow as people and we go through different times, and in music or in a body of work, it is just a little time capsule, this is what this little time capsule was.”
“I just feel like it’s honestly our most focused record,” Grobler proudly addresses, “and it’s not without experimentation as well; I think there’s things that you’ve never heard in any St. Lucia record. But anyone that I know knows I love what we do, who are our friends…even not friends that I’ve sent it to have said it feels like all the best parts of all of our records, put together.”
The “Utopia” album holds the energetic sound you typically find in St. Lucia, making it hard not to want to dance to the beat. Still, this album is much more multi-dimensional in terms of emotive lyrics, touching on the vulnerable sides of the last few years during the isolation of the pandemic. The title, “Utopia” explained by Grobler is, “the loaded opposite of what it says, you know, it’s like a golden thing. It’s like a rotten apple inside. If you aim for utopia, it just kind of becomes a hell. Because in a way, the perfection, I think, for us is in the journey is in the balance between all of these opposing forces, you know, and we’re so divided as humans and politically and whatever these days. But I feel to us the balance has always been in these opposites, and it might seem messy, but I think that’s part of the human journey and the journey of nature is like that it all balances out.”
The latest single, “Take Me Away,” is a song that has a tropical, downtempo, chill-out sound you might find while lying somewhere on the beach in Ibiza. Grobler writes constantly and is always composing music. It is part of what he does everyday, whether it is after a run or just something that will inspire him at that moment. Similarly, he noted how the song, “Take Me Away” became a song,”It was actually written right after our big tour we did for our last album “Hyperion” and I wrote it in our guest bedroom. I just came up with the idea and basically forgot about it after that first day for, like, years or something. And then when we were working on the second half of “Utopia”
He explains the song is reminiscent of music he listened to in the early 2000’s, “that kind of era of music that, to me, is like a beach soundtrack…. it’s that kind of escapist sound of a slightly melancholy-like, tropical feeling…But in a way, our most famous song is the song “Elevate”, …and to me is in that vein a little bit. It’s escapist.” He continues on expressing, “I feel like ‘Take Me Away’ is also about how important it is to just speak your mind. So it’s almost like telling someone who’s going through this hard time that you just tell me what’s on your heart, and I won’t judge you. Basically, I almost get these messages from the universe or something, like new songs will either come into my head or old songs, like ‘Take Me Away’. Have you seen that movie “Inside Out”? It’s like those guys sending me the ideas!”
St. Lucia is looking forward to touring as a family and is grateful to continue to do what they love. Love, euphoric, and, most importantly joy were some of the words this pair used to explain what it feels like when you get to play music on stage. Beranek expresses love as the powerful feeling she feels on stage. Grobler shared with us his final thoughts, “it’s such a joy. I mean, it’s just like us having been together for 20 years. There’s ups and downs, and it’s hard times … there’s been times it is the end of the thing, but then there’s always something that keeps happening and grows in some way, and you sort of get better. To me, if you invest your time in something that you’re passionate about, and that you believe in for no other reason than that, you just believe in it, you know, it’s not because of financial reasons, or whatever. It’s like you’re growing a garden, it’s investing time and growing a garden, and just over time, and just, like, if you invest time the right way, and prune the plants and do whatever, it just becomes more and more beautiful. And to me, that’s kind of what I see, both with our relationship with our kids, with our project, that it just becomes more and more complex, but it also becomes more its own thing, the longer we keep doing it. And you know, even though we’re not the biggest band in the world, maybe one day we will be, maybe we won’t. I mean to me, it’s just important that we like cultivating this thing that we find to be beautiful. And that maybe people will see that, inspire them, those people.”
And those words are exactly why we are looking to their upcoming album “Utopia” and will be seeing them live this Fall.
Follow the on Instagram @stlucia
Fall Tour on Sale Now, buy tickets, and listen to the album go to: http://www.stlucianewyork.com
Keep an eye out for The House’s full conversation with St. Lucia, it was too good of an interview that we just have to have you listen to the whole thing!